If you see your local knee brace salesman smiling it can mean only one thing: Graybeards ’99 hoop action is underway.
This year’s edition sports six teams (the league maximum) and 27 different orthopedic braces. Back from injuries are Eddie "No Look" Cashen, Jimmy Roberts, Kevin Boyle (yeah, him), Harry Werner, and Big Bob Risi. With eight man squads there won’t be much time for everyone, especially the purple hearts returning from the IR, to round into form. Jim Roberts, however, is already well on the way to being in round form. A reminder to local pub owners: please stock up.
Opening night arrived with all the usual pomp, though disappointment hung temporarily in the air as Marian Dunn failed to show after promising to sing the National Anthem. But joy soon took over with the arrival of Superfan---Helen Brady.
The opener pitted The Red Devils against the Green Envy. And you heard it here first: Red looks tough. Former MVP Chris Boyle and all-star G.I. Joe Farrell headline the squad and the tandem wasted no time in showing they can partner up. The game started evenly enough with Green holding a 13-12 lead but then Red turned hot. G.I. Joe made one smart decision after another on the break, resulting in a Red bulge (so to speak) of 20 points. Boyle, G. I. Joe, and Bob Risi combined for 71 of the team’s 85 points. But it was a total team effort as everyone put ink in the scoring column. That includes Dan "Magic" Edwards who was perfect from long distance. We can’t tell if it’s a well-rounded team or just a bunch of cheap guys---since the last man to score this season must buy a round for the entire league.
On the other side, the Green Envy looked a tad lumpy, ready for a pre-season game. (Good thing they didn’t want to play shirts and skins!) It was bad enough that John Cosgrove was missing but Green’s big fella, Dan Leary, had a tough night. After being welcomed back by his mates with a schedule, a watch, and maps to the gym and local bars, Leary fouled out early in the second half. The Green Monsters couldn’t (wouldn’t? forgot to?) get Leary the ball for long stretches. Some sideline analysts (who outnumbered fans) pointed to a few possible reasons. First, it seems Eddie "No Look" Cashen perfected a new play during his year off: the attempted assist. Cashen demonstrated the move repeatedly, passing crisply to the stage, the wall, the balcony and both benches. Welcome back, Ed. Duck for cover, kids.
When Green did hold on to the ball, it often wound up in the hands of Machine Gun Kelly, formerly known as Brian. Kelly, a rookie, proved a worthy disciple of teammate Bob Gunner Geary. League devotees know Geary’s First Commandment: thou shall not pass. And his Second Commandment: thou shall honor shot attempts above all else.
Kelly shot often and early, impressing the crowd with his utter lack of conscience. "A shooter shoots," shrugged Kelly after the loss. Within earshot was the venerable Gunner Geary, proud as a papa, beaming at Kelly’s words. But Machine Gun might yet add a few commandments of his own. At the post-game press conference, he described himself as a "40 minute offensive specialist," adding "I just put defense and rebounding out of my mind. My soul is about shooting."
Shooting wasn’t the only Geary-like trait Machine Gun demonstrated on opening night. When a stop in play occurred and a teammate tried to report into the game Machine Gun looked absolutely stunned: This league has subs? You mean I have to come out?
Yes, Machine Gun.
The night’s featured match-up pitted the Gray Matter against the Blue Bruisers. The Matter boast Kevin Kelleher, the two Stathis boys, and player/coach/deejay Bugsy. A smart hoops bunch. The Bruisers, on the other hand, look like a classic eastern Conference squad. Bill Armstrong, Jack Weber, Joe Kenel, Leaper Howley---‘nuff said.
Kelleher came out smoking with 16 first half points as Gray jumped to an eight point half-time lead. The game didn’t feel that close though, and in the second half, it wasn’t. Gray’s Bobby Bruns started launching smart bombs from every corner of the gym. Launching and connecting. Happily, no collateral damage or civilian casualties were reported. Unhappily for Blue, their air defense proved useless against Bruns. Every time Blue would try to creep back, Bombin’ Bobby delivered death from above. Bugsy then ran the 4-corners offense (which he invented last season in consultation with Dan Edwards) to close out the game.
Of course, it’s not just the basketball game going on---it’s the game within the game. For example, will somebody get hit with a tech or an ejection? Each event means the culprit has to ante up with a round of thirst clencher. Sadly, neither happened.
Ah, but league rules don’t end there.
So it was that the gym held its collective breath as Bill Armstrong stepped to the foul lien to shoot a pair. Would the big man toss an air ball? The question hanging in the air because it’s there in the rule book, in black and white: shoot an air ball from the line and start buying.
Faster than you could say Bud, Bill’s shot floated back to earth a good three feet short of the rim. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, it was a dehydrated group. Thanks, Bill. Some perpetually thirsty players plan on hacking Shaq Armstrong every time he touches the ball. Though Armstrong swears it’ll never happen again, deli owners have offered him a tab.
The two remaining teams had a first week bye but with Kenny Chin Brady slated to make his debut next week, the air ball vultures are already circling.